Maria Jastrzębska was born in Warsaw in 1953 and came to England as a small child when her family escaped from Poland. She studied Developmental Psychology at Sussex University and lives in Brighton. Her early work was popularised by the women’s presses and magazines of the 1980s and 1990s. Her poem ‘The Good Immigrant’ was used by teachers in schools and colleges. Her work has appeared in anthologies such as The New British Poetry (Paladin, 1988), and more recently Parents: An Anthology of Poems by Women Writers (Enitharmon, 2000) and Images of Women (Arrowhead, 2006). She has had poems translated into Polish, Japanese, Finnish, Slovenian and French.
She reads regularly, internationally and locally, including the Cuisle Poetry Festival in Ireland, and the first British/Polish Manifestations Festival. In 2006 she was invited to the Golden Bowl International Translation Workshop in Slovenia. She is closely involved with ‘The South’ and founded ‘South Pole’, a network of artists with Polish connections on the South Coast. She tutors in Queer Writing and runs a multi-media open garden ‘Outskirts’ for Brighton Festival.
Jastrzębska writes, “I’ve always been concerned with borders and boundaries: between countries, cultures, languages, between social and sexual identities, health and illness.” Thus she stakes out the breadth of her territory and emphasises a unifying factor. George Szirtes has commented “Maria Jastrzębska’s poems open out like adventures in a dual land that is both here and elsewhere. The elsewhere is both place and history: the one gives life to the other, the place to the history, the elsewhere to the here, the fable to the reality. The mixture is rich and clear as alcoholic spirits.” Her poetry is unusual in its combination of tough directness and subtlety. ‘Think About It’ (featured in this selection) has a Brechtian force and clarity. It is significant, as she herself has remarked, that she is drawn to the prose-poem, a ‘borderline’ form, and one in which she excels. The ‘Dementia Diaries’ sequence is highly original – claustrophobic, disorientating, razor-edged.
Postcards from Poland with visual artist Jola Scicinska (Working Press, 1991)
Home from Home (Flarestack, 2002)
Syrena (Redbeck Press, 2004)
Open Garden and Summer House based in Hove
A writers’ network and literary arts agency in the south of England
An online network for UK-based creative people of Polish origin
The Man with No Heart
Poem published in Ambit Magazine, #163